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Fostering innovation

Plans unveiled to revamp EU research funding to spur more innovation, increase its economic impact, make it easier for researchers to get involved and deliver better value for taxpayers.

The EU is spending about €143bn in the 2007-2013 period to fund research and innovation projects. Now the Commission is preparing the ground for the next round of funding – based on the priorities for Innovation Union , part of the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy to boost growth and jobs.

Initial proposals would refocus funding toward projects that tackle current challenges, such as health and an aging population, climate change, food security, and diminishing natural resources.

Funding would also be better coordinated along the innovation chain – from basic research down to launching new products and services on the market.

Simplified procedures and rules would make it easier for researchers, companies and entrepreneurs to cooperate, apply for and use EU funding. Performance checks would monitor projects to ensure taxpayers’ money is being used effectively.

Increasing R&D investment

Refocusing EU funding will help close the innovation gap between the EU and its main competitors, the US and Japan. On most measures, the US is ahead of the EU, according to an annual assessment . Other emerging economies, such as China and Brazil, are rapidly narrowing that gap.

EU leaders have given broad support to the Commission’s approach, which also involves creating public-private partnerships to bring more innovations to market faster. The first partnership, to be launched in 2011, will encourage R&D to develop new products and services for active and healthy ageing.

The EU will encourage governments and industry to increase overall investment in R&D to 3% of GDP by 2020 (from 2% in 2009). Achieving that target could create 3.7 million jobs and boost annual growth by up to €795bn.

Next steps

A public consultation is now underway until 20 May on the proposals. The Commission will then make specific proposals on research funding later this year. PM & Picture © European Commission

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